If you’d been blindfolded, within 50 yards of setting off (and if you hadn’t driven into a tree) you’d know you were in a Rolls-Royce. The car type might be like no other Rolls but the driving experience is bang on. The V12 is near silent, step-off brilliantly smooth and the steering, through a wheel rim slightly smaller and thicker than usual, consistently light but very accurate. There’s a long throttle pedal, an easy throttle response, and a great ride quality.
Wheel options are 21 or 22in, although going by some early design sketches I reckon about 30in would set it off. Even on run-flat tyres the Cullinan’s smoothness is right in keeping with the Rolls ethos. More roll and compliance is allowed than on rival cars, so its responses are comparatively dimmed, but that’s just fine. Stability is great, road and wind noise levels are exceptionally well supressed. There’s more than 100kg of soundproofing around the body and the windows are claimed to be thicker than anybody else’s. It’s impeccably quiet. Does it outride a Range Rover? I think so. A Bentley Bentayga? No question. And its BMW iDrive-derived, Rolls-fronted, infotainment system is fantastic. With a claimed 0-60mph time of 5.0sec it’s also respectfully brisk, and the V12 zings with smoothness if you work it – there’s a ‘power meter’, not a rev counter, but peak power is 5000rpm.
I don’t think you’d want it to feel quicker, because its refinement goes to make the Cullinan one of the most relaxing cars to drive vast distances. So long as you’ve got space around it, that is, because it’s essentially the size of a double-cab pick up truck; albeit with better visibility, cameras all round and rear-steer.
It’s a fair bit heavier than one, too, at 2730kg at the kerb. Which, combined with little engine braking, means you’re deeper into the brake pedal than you might be in a rival. It also contributes for a fairly breath-taking fuel economy of 18.8mpg, with a CO2 output of 341g/km. Neither is the kind of thing that troubles owners.
Can the Cullinan handle itself off-road?
Just how good the car is off-road depends on what you’re asking of it. The size and weight mean that it wouldn’t thank you for taking it into soft mud and tight gaps, but the 627lb ft is apparently pretty handy on dunes, and the wade depth is 540mm. In off-road mode, although you can’t select gears yourself, if you then ping the ‘low’ button on the column-mounted gearlever, it’ll effectively hold second-gear if it can, which is good from about 5mph to 55mph, and gives stronger engine braking. The big, heavy doors have a lower edge which wraps around the sills, as on some rivals, to help stop dirt getting on your legs.
Rolls thinks the off-road ability will be used a lot. We haven’t extended the full axle articulation, but did take it on steep tracks, across loose rocks, and icy paths, where it was convincingly unflustered. Rolls talks about the ‘last mile’ for drivers – that tricky bit at the end of a journey away from a road, to a ski resort, a desert lodge, a shoot, where owners will expect it to get them with some ease.
Ultimately, then, this big car is a Rolls-Royce at heart. Less outwardly dynamic but more comfortable than a Bentley and far more luxurious than the most expensive Range Rover. It looks like a Rolls-Royce, feels like one, drives like one and, at £250,000 before you start adding options, of which you can choose a lot, is priced like one. Controversial? Only, I suspect, for people who weren’t ever going to be interested anyway. If you want one, in its execution it hits the spot entirely.